sábado, diciembre 07, 2013

Ballet, opera and concert in a varied menu

            In the final weeks of the season there are still some interesting things going on. A programme of Mauricio Wainrot choreographies by the Ballet Contemporáneo del Teatro San Martín, an independent opera production tackling Donizetti´s bel canto masterpiece "Anna Bolena"  and an unexpected but welcome chamber recital by soprano María Bayo all had their points.

            Wainrot , along with Oscar Aráiz, are our veteran choreographers of important international careers and both have been at the helm of the Ballet Contemporáneo del Teatro San Martín, certainly our best group of that kind.  Although the BC has had ups and downs in their already long existence, they are currently in good shape, as witnessed by their  Wainrot double bill. He has been their Director for quite a while and his tenure should be considered positive although not without faults.

            The thirty dancers are listed alphabetically, no one has a special soloist category. It is worthwhile noting that they have teachers not only of Contemporary Technique but also of Classic Technique,  stressing the Neo-Classic trend of the BC.  It is in fact Wainrot´s style, modern but not experimental and far from the Expressionist leanings of such icons as Margaret Graham, José Limón or Pina Bausch. I find in Wainrot  a love for equilibrium and, in a way, what might be termed "classical modern"; an easy command of groupings; good taste.

            The session included "Desde lejos" ("From far away"), a half-hour piece on minimalist music by Wim Mertens created by Wainrot back in 1992 for the Ballet Royal de Wallonie and premièred here by Julio Bocca and his Ballet Argentino in 1998. And in what is apparently a world première, "La canción de la Tierra" ("Das Lied von der Erde", "Song of the Earth"), the marvelous hour-long song cycle by Gustav Mahler on old Chinese poems (translated of course in German).

            I believe Wainrot is more comfortable with abstract ballets, and "Desde lejos" is a good example; Mertens´ music is more expressive and melodic (and more varied) than most minimalist pieces, and with its strong rhythmic basis it provides a firm background to a fluid choreography of elegant steps featuring solos, duets, trios and ensembles. On the Thursday matinée I attended we had the first cast (he always works with two casts); the twelve dancers were very accomplished, although the women had better physiques. Pleasant stage design and costumes by Carlos Gallardo and well-conceived lighting by José Luis Fiorruccio.

            I have deep love for "Das Lied von der Erde" and believe it needs no choreography. Three of the songs are very Expressionistic in their music and I didn´t see their meaning reflected in the movements; the only light one, "About Youth", was quite nice. The enormous last song, "Der Abschied" ("The farewell") belongs to the metaphysical word of the Ninth Symphony´s last movement; the eight dancers were convincing, especially Sol Rourich and Benjamín Parada, and Wainrot´s best ideas were seen here, but for me he didn´t express the ineffable final "Ewig...ewig"  ("Eternal...Eternal"). Graciela Galán opted for ochre tones in her stage and costume designs; the lighting by Jorge Pastorino was suggestive; and the video by the Estudio Silvia Rivas brought Chinese ambience. The wonderful recording helped (Christa Ludwig, René Kollo and Hedrbert Von Karajan).

            I will be brief about "Anna Bolena". I have seen the opera in our city twice with orchestra, at the Colón with a splendid cast in 1970 (Suliotis, G.Raimondi, Cossotto, Vincò) and some years back with Adelaida Negri. It is Donizetti at its very best, and I treasure the theatre recording with Callas and Simionato. Of course, it´s a tall order to compete with such memories. This "Anna Bolena" was modest, piano-accompanied, in a small theatre rarely used (Luz y Fuerza).

            It started appallingly late (no explanation). César Tello was wholly responsible for the artistic side (piano, musical and stage direction); long acquainted with the genre, he gave us a totally traditional stage view, too melodramatic and repetitive, and his piano playing was quite fallible, but the phrasing indicated to the singers was generally right. The best of the cast was tenor Cristian Carrero, who has a true timbre and all the notes. Luciano Straguzzi was adequate as Henry VIII. The women were green; Maria Vkallasova has a nasal sound and a heavy appearance , but also ample power and some dramatic sense. Agnes Pelé was intense but often uncontrolled as Giovanna, and Valeria Mangano was poor as Smeton. Javier Martínez sounded well as Lord Rochefort and Alfredo Davies was in the picture as Hervey. The Coro Asociación Clásica del Sur was very amateurish .

            María Bayo was quite a success here back in 1992 (Susanna in "The Marriage of Figaro") and 1996 ("Doña Francisquita"). Now she was back in a very agreeable recital cunningly programmed for her 2013 vocal condition (some vibrato en long notes, highs rather incisive), at the Usina del Arte. Although she gesticulates too much, her personality is charming and she sings with aplomb and sensibility.

             She avoided drama and opted for pleasant, melodic songs: a beautiful selection of six pieces by Bizet (good French), and the rest all-Spanish: three of the "Canciones xacobeas" (that is, from Santiago de Compostela) by Antón García Abril, recent octogenarian; "Five pieces on poems by Juana Ibarbourou" by the very Cuban Ernesto Lecuona (1895-1963), and that small masterpiece, Turina´s "Poema en forma de canciones" (poems by Ramón de Campoamor). Plus three irresistible encores from zarzuelas. And with the  splendid accompaniments of Rubén Fernández Aguirre, always accurate and collaborative.

For Buenos Aires Herald